Fifteen members of Black Student Union, a three hour bus ride to College Station, a weekend full of empowerment and leadership. This was the Southwestern Black Student Leadership Conference, which some Trinity students had the opportunity to attend two weekends ago. With topics varying from developing your elevator pitch, to growing in your community, to becoming a stronger leader, Â men and women of color Â gathered to engage with students and speakers from across the country.
â€œIt was a good opportunity to just network and get to see some Black excellence, as they called it,â€ said Simone Washington, first year international studies major.
The conference moved participants in many different ways, whether it was inspiring them to improve themselves in the workplace or in their personal lives.
â€œThe workshops that I went to were more on job stuff, so like networking, how to make yourself seem more appealing to potential people who hire you or what you should do once you get a job. They held workshops and gathered a group of people to just better themselves,â€ said Yanina Soudaly, senior business major.
Some of the highlights were the notable speakers as well as the engaging social events.
â€œAngela Rye, a political commentator for CNN came and gave us her agenda, what she thought about the black community and what we should be doing and how to organize. Because we love going to conferences and going to dialogues and things like that, and thatâ€™s all good and everything, but at the end of the day, you want to activate the vision, and that was their message for this conference. So she gave us some really helpful takeaways from the conference,â€ Washington said.
Although there were several highlights, attendees also noticed some issues that had occurred during the conference.
â€œSo they had a bunch of workshops, the only kind of bad part about it is that if you wanted to go to two different ones, one conflicted with another,â€ Soudaly said.
â€œThere was a little â€˜90s themed party that the Conference threw. It was cool, because you see everybody dress up and everyone just dancing and messing around. There were photo booths, food and drink and stuff. It was really cool. And then meeting a lot of people. Itâ€™s a great way to network,â€ Soudaly said.
Trinityâ€™s faculty advisor of BSU, Stacy Davidson, thought the conference was especially meaningful for how it impacted the students who attended.
â€œThey describe the experience as empowering, transformational, developmental, motivational, etc. Each participant was required to share what impacted them the most at the BSU meeting the week after they returned so that the members who did not attend could learn from the experiences of those who did. These are the words they used to describe their own experiences,â€ said Davidson, who is also Trinityâ€™s director for Academic Support.
Since returning, Davidson has already observed differences in the attitudes of BSU members.
â€œThey already feel compelled to be better leaders, to work more intentionally in their communities and to have a positive impact on Trinityâ€™s campus. My work as a student affairs professional has always been about providing these opportunities for students to grow and develop their own interpersonal and leadership skills. Seeing this happen with this group of students is extremely rewarding to me,â€ Davidson said.
Davidson had previously attended the conference, but each visit makes her feel as grateful for the opportunity to learn as the last.
â€œThis is my second year attending. Â It is a affirming and rewarding experience to see young men and women of color, but predominantly African-American students, gather together to develop their leadership skills, to learn how to become active in their community, to network and to meet other like-minded students. Â It makes me proud to see Trinity students engaging in meaningful ways with each other, students from other universities, and speakers from across the country who have knowledge and experience to share with them,â€ Davidson said.
Despite this being the first conference for some, the benefits of this event are already observable.
â€œâ€œI think that you can never start too early with things like this conference. Itâ€™s always good to just get out there and start networking and getting numbers and at least learning who youâ€™re supposed to be talking to and what youâ€™re supposed to even be thinking about at this time. I thought it would be beneficial to just get out there early, I guess,â€ Washington said.
Some of the students who attended are hoping to deepen their involvement on campus.
â€œIâ€™m already going to more Trinity Diversity Connection meetings and definitely signed up for the different cultural clubs here on campus. Iâ€™m excited about just getting involved with those communities and seeing what I can do as an [SGA] senator, as a human being, just doing my job and being an advocate for those groups,â€ Washington said.
All Trinity students are welcomed by BSU at their meetings and events. They are also welcome to attend upcoming events in celebration of Black History Month.
â€œWe have an educational and entertaining month of activities scheduled for Mocha Month. Â Having the opportunity to engage students in meaningful ways around diversity and inclusion issues makes my experience at Trinity that much more rewarding,â€ Davidson said.